HOW lucky can you get?
Last week during my assignment to preview the Open at Royal Birkdale, I set myself a task of procuring a few autographs to raise a few bob for Guide Dogs for the Blind.
I grabbed a strokesaver booklet and asked some of the star names to sign across the diagrams of the 18 holes.
Among those to oblige were Jim Furyk, Ernie Els, Greg Norman (right) and Padraig Harrington, who all finished in the top 10.
Even better Padraig signed the page depicting the 18th, so you can imagine I was grinning almost as broadly as the Irishman as he made that magical last day walk waving to the delighted gallery.
TWO of the most famous footballing images of recent times were Diego Maradona’s "Hand of God" goal for Argentina against England, and Eric Cantona leaping into the crowd to confront a fan at Selhurst Park.
Well the two enfant terribles are still at it! I’m using a bit of journalistic licence here because it is actually Diego junior, rather than his old man, but there’s only one Eric, and I’m convinced the Frenchmen is as mad as a hatter.
I’m sunning myself in the south of France at the moment – working of course – at the World Beach Football Finals, and very entertaining it is too.
It’s the first time the event has moved from Rio’s Copacobana Beach, but around 6,000 people are filling the purpose-built Stade De Prado every day to cheer on extraordinarily gifted footballers.
Monsieur Cantona is the manager of the French team and played in the first World Cup final which they won four years ago.
He and his brother Joel have invested heavily in bringing the tournament to Marseilles, so it’s naturally vital for France to do well.
Imagine the pressure he was under then when France lost their opening game to Senegal on penalties.
Eric was like a time bomb on the touchline. He ranted and raved at his players during the two intervals they have during these 36-minute encounters, put two fingers up to the opposition coach and had to be restrained at the end of the feisty affair.
Nothing new there then!
It was looking even worse when the French threw away a 5-1 lead against Iran, to be forced into extra-time and another penalty shoot-out.
Thankfully this time they held their nerve and Eric raced barefoot across the sand to smother his heroes in kisses.
Incidentally, the penalty that won the game was scored by a man who once played for Blackburn Rovers, Sebastian Perez.
Now to Maradona, or Diego Armando Maradona junior as he is exotically named.
Strangely, he isn’t playing for Argentina here, instead he lines up in the colours of Italy, the result of being conceived in Naples during the ‘Great One’s’ stint in Serie A.
There have been quite a few instances of deliberate handball in this event, sadly from a journalistic point of view, none as yet involving Son of God.
He’s clearly not in the same class as his father, it would be unfair to expect him to be, but there are some players here who leave you gasping in admiration.
The top scorer is a Portuguese player by the name of Madjer.
He’s very tall, has a lethal left foot, and has scored 48 goals in four World Cups involving nine hat tricks.
The superb Brazilians, it goes without saying, are the defending champions, and in Buru and Benjamin have the golden and silver ball winners from the 2007 World Cup.
I admit to being sceptical about commentating on boys larking about on a beach, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the skills and intensity of competition.
The goals come thick and fast and there aren’t many dull moments in a sport that might be about to take off.
The other bonus is the endless sunshine. I rest my case!